No particular media wins during a market slowdown

Economic concerns have not had much impact on the media buying side of the business in Canada. Debbie King, executive vice-president of Optimedia, says while there have not been any big cuts, advertisers are showing a little more caution and looking...

Economic concerns have not had much impact on the media buying side of the business in Canada. Debbie King, executive vice-president of Optimedia, says while there have not been any big cuts, advertisers are showing a little more caution and looking for flexibility in media buys.

This means that non-cancellable TV time – networks and some cable channels make non-cancellation a condition of purchase – are being bypassed.

‘If something dastardly does happen, advertisers can get out of – or partially out of – their commitment’ says King. ‘So you book more short term and book conventional, then you’ve got the flexibility to cancel with four weeks notice.’

But flexibility isn’t an issue for all clients, particularly those with U.S.-based parents, says Virginia Dymott, media director of Toronto’s Due North Communications. In many cases, she says, their preference is for non-cancellable airtime so if a dictate to cut budgets comes down from the top, they’re already locked in.

Traditionally, when there’s been a slowdown in the U.S., Canada has followed pretty quickly, says King. Because there’s more lag time than usual, she believes people are much less pessimistic about the depth and length of a recession. ‘I recently came back from Europe and they’re in the same position we are in. The only one that really seems to be in a recession is the U.S.’

In terms of what media might get favoured during a sluggish economy, King says there is no one frontrunner, but that generally there is a cutback across all media or the elimination of secondary media.

‘Times have been pretty good and most advertisers are running multimedia. There’s always a primary medium. If it’s television and you layer on magazines and then out-of-home – the way you put them on the plan is the way you take them off.’

This is because when belts are tightened, advertisers will instinctively want to protect the media that is driving business, says Genesis Media president and CEO Bruce Claassen. ‘You’ve got your primary medium, your secondary and your tertiary. Why do you think you’re seeing such a drop off in online advertising? Part of it is because of the decline in the dot-com business, part of it is because of the decline in the technology business, but also part of it is the fact that it’s not considered mainstream media. When belts are tightened, online is going to be one that gets some focus.’

- With files from Peter Vamos